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Cooper delivers first State of Metro address, pushes for property tax increase to fix budget woes

Posted at 9:56 AM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-31 21:41:43-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Mayor John Cooper delivered his first State of Metro address while Nashville continues to recover from a deadly, devastating tornado and battles the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Cooper gave the address a month earlier than normal due to the expedited budget process for the upcoming fiscal year.

The city moved the annual event to a virtual format to follow the social distancing guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Cooper called it the "most unusual" State of Metro in the city's history and announced that the city's "safer at home" order will be extended until April 24.

“The time will come when we can invest again.”

Last week, a memo went out to Metro department heads with directives on how to reign-in spending, which included a hiring freeze and placing all travel on-hold, along with promotions or pay raises.


The city already had a more than $40-million budget shortfall before this month's tornado and the COVID-19 outbreak.

Cooper said, "New revenue included $12.6-million from the Music City Center and $3.6-million from the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation."

Now, the finance director believes the city will lose an additional $100-200 million in sales and activity taxes. The Music City Center pledged an additional $35-million to the city, but it's still not enough.

Cooper added that the city is hopeful for FEMA relief for the tornado clean-up, but said it took Metro several years to get reimbursed from the 2010 flood.

"This means we must spend our own money now to invest in rebuilding our city," he said.

Cooper also said he will push for a property tax increase in the future, saying, "We must insure that we have the resources to get us all the way through to the post-virus Nashville."

NewsChannel5's political analyst Pat Nolan said this comes at a time when some Nashvillians are struggling to pay their bills. Many people on social media are upset about the property tax hike proposal.

Nolan said, "I understand people not wanting to have their taxes raised, but on the other hand they may want to ask the question: what if that means we have to lay off police officers or fire people in city services? They may have a slightly different outlook on it, even though it’s going to be tough for some people because they can’t even make their rent payments, and they’re wondering how they’re going to buy their groceries."

It’s a budget problem that Nolan said the city has never faced before.

"This may be the greatest set of challenges Nashville has ever faced," Cooper said. "But we will get through it together."

The proposed budget will go to the Metro Council for a vote by the end of April.

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What is COVID-19 (a.k.a. the new coronavirus?)

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Examples include the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. COVID-19 stands for "Coronavirus disease 2019," which is when this strain of the coronavirus was discovered.

What are the symptoms?

The CDC says patients confirmed to have the 2019-nCoV reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Or at least two of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

At this time, the CDC believes symptoms could appear as soon as two days after exposure, or as long as 14 days.

Prevention

The CDC is recommending "common sense" measures such as:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

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